CAKE – Showroom of Compassion Album Review
I think the title Showroom of Compassion is quite fitting for CAKE’s sixth album.
CAKE has carved out quite a niche for themselves in the rock music landscape over the last couple of decades (and yes, that’s decades with an s now, crazy!) by serving up heaping helpings of irony and sarcasm. But as most of us can probably attest to, irony and sarcasm are traits that are best tempered with age. Now I’m in no way saying that irony and sarcasm are undesirable qualities in a person (when taken in moderation), but we all probably know that middle-aged guy who never got past his high school sensibilities and wears a heavy coat of what he thinks is a cool ironic detachment for everyone to see. Except at that stage, it’s no longer that cool, and that guy is most likely a dick. The whole “too cool for school” attitude might be acceptable when the only thing you have to concern yourself with in life is school, but when you start to assume more responsibilities in your life it is no longer a badge of honor to strut around with the smug look on your face that says, “You’re all just not in on the joke.” Anyone who’s seen Louis C.K.’s terrific standup special Hilarious knows what I’m talking about. (/end rant)
Whew, excuse me for that tangent. Now where was I? Oh yes, Showroom of Compassion is an apt title for this record because it represents a thinning of that indifference that has been the CAKE bedrock for so many years and it opens them up to actually emoting, even if it is ever so slightly. This compassion may be disguised as dispassion, but it’s still better than flippancy.
Thankfully, everything else that fans love about CAKE is still present in spades – the strong, slick bass lines, the warm, lively, ever present brass, and the interesting but never overpowering keyboard flourishes. This is the kind album for people who like more than just guitars in their rock music. It is quite a nice change of pace to listen to a band that is more at home with a horn solo than a guitar solo. And of course, singer John McCrea’s unique half-singing, half-spoken delivery remains in full force. But whereas in the past, you got the strong sense that he couldn’t care less about the words spouting forth from his mouth, this time around that veneer has tapered off into sly subtlety, which, believer it or not, is a big difference. I’m sure some hardcore longtime CAKE fans (of which I am not one) will shoot me down and claim that I just don’t get all of their previous work, and maybe they’re right. That’s the thing with irony though – you can never be sure of the other person’s intentions and so any conclusions you draw are more a reflection of you.
But like I said, amidst the funky bass and the bouncy brass, there’s some real emotion and yes, compassion, that peeks its head out. “Got to Move” is about a homebody dealing with someone who can’t put any roots down, and “Bound Away” continues that theme with its descriptions of always heading somewhere other than home. Of course, there’s also “Italian Guy.” If you can tell me what that song is about, other than a man of Italian descent, I’m all ears.
The track “Mustache Man (Wasted)” laments the wasting of time, but Showroom of Compassion is so easygoing that it makes for the perfect record to spin when wasting time is exactly what you want to do. And I mean that in the best way possible. For a band that is so laid back, CAKE sure packs a lot of swagger.